Club Review: Wendy Scherl’s “The Sweetness and the Sorrow: The Songs of Marvin Hamlisch”

May 31, 2022 | By

Wendy Scherl treated her audience to an evening of Marvin Hamlisch in her most recent show, The Sweetness and the Sorrow. She sang a variety of music with lyricists that included Howard Liebling, Carole Bayer Sager, David Zippel, and more. Scherl and Hamlisch are a good pairing. Hamlisch was such a versatile artist, and Scherl was up to the task of presenting a variety of music that shows off her sure, clear vocals and her emotional connections. She had fantastic support from musical director Christopher Denny (piano), Tom Hubbard (bass), and Rex Benincasa (drums). The creative and amusing Barry Kleinbort directed.

Wendy Scherl

Scherl opened her show with “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows” (Howard Liebling, lyrics) which was recorded by the late Lesley Gore when she and Hamlisch were both just teenagers. It was, then and now, a silly confection and yet so darn likeable, not to mention a sweet jolt of nostalgia to start the evening off for this boomer. 

“Dreamers” (Christopher Adler from Jean Seberg), which came early in the show, was very touching and lyrical. Scherl followed this with the story of how Hamlisch became acquainted with Liza Minnelli and ended up writing a group of songs they recorded for her mother as a gift. Out of this creative pairing came ”The Travelin’ Life” (Howard Liebling), the first song Minnelli sang on The Ed Sullivan Show. I saw that performance, and wow! Hamlisch “got” Minnelli. And Wendy Scherl got them both. 

Scherl poignantly paired “At the Ballet” (Edward Kleban/Howard Ashman from A Chorus Line) with her touchstone for many years, “Disneyland” (Howard Ashman  from Smile). This was one of many highlights of the show.

“Rita’s Tune” (Craig Carnelia from Sweet Smell of Success), was absolutely made for Scherl’s voice, and it’s the kind of tune many singers could over sing. But one of the wonderful things about Scherl was that she didn’t “over do” anything. She didn’t over sing, she didn’t over act. She trusted the music and lyrics to work for her in a cabaret act. 

The repertoire was just superb, with several more “hits” than I’ve mentioned here. It’s hard to miss with Hamlisch, but Scherl upped the ante with an enviable voice, confidence, and beautiful stage presence. She provided just enough history to connect the dots and it was a powerful testament to the talent of Marvin Hamlisch. Scherl said she never wanted to do a “composer show” but then, before pre-pandemic lockdown when a new show was incubating, she noticed that many Hamlisch songs were always front and center for her. 

I’m glad she took the hint.

***

Presented at The Green Room 42 on May 12 and 13.

 

 

Category: News / Reviews / Commentary, Reviews

About the Author ()

Though now Betsyann Faiella is known in New York primarily as a publicist, she came to that profession from two previous careers that contributed to her love of promoting creative people: as a working singer and as a media producer. She made her cabaret debut at the legendary Reno Sweeney. She was the lead singer in a band with Lewis Friedman, the impresario of both Reno Sweeney and s.n.a.f.u. Later she performed in such other iconic venues as Birdland, Blue Note, the Jazz Bakery in Los Angeles, and Ronnie Scott's in London. She appeared in concert with jazz legends Hank Jones and Paul Smith and performed at arts centers and universities around the country.

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